WIGAN came to a chaotic standstill as the town was deluged with heavy snow.
The roads and infrastructure proved unable to cope as around half a foot of snow fell in many areas of the borough in the space of several hours on Friday night.
The Arctic conditions made driving treacherous, with many motorists forced to spend hours in queues as the M6 was closed in both directions following a major accident.
A seven-car accident on the southbound carriageway forced the Highways Agency to shut the motorway at junction 27 in Standish at around 8.30pm.
As the incident occurred just north of the junction the emergency services were unable to put a diversion in place, leading to drivers having to wait in their vehicles for at least an hour and a half in the polar conditions while the accident was cleared.
The occupants of the seven cars escaped with minor injuries, and no-one had to be taken to hospital.
Gareth Gray, Watch Manager at Wigan fire station, said: “Several cars had wheels broken off where they had hit the central reservation, and the front car had heavy damage to its boot where other vehicles had run into it.
“The driving conditions were absolutely terrible, and a couple of the drivers were lucky not to be injured.
“The tailback of cars was about half a mile when we got there, so by the time we left it was probably more than a mile. We couldn’t push the cars out of the way because they had lost wheels and just had to wait for a recovery truck, so it will have been a long and very cold journey for a lot of motorists last night.”
The motorway remained closed into the early hours of the morning but has since re-opened with delays and slow-moving traffic.
There were also reports of HGVs coming to a halt on the motorway near the Orrell Interchange and jack-knifed lorries on the northbound carriageway causing further misery for drivers.
The town centre and A-roads around Wigan fared little better, with reports of motorists abandoning their cars or requiring the assistance of passers-by to dig their vehicles from the drifts.
Cars were reported abandoned on the A49 through Standish and on the roads around Winstanley, while drivers struggled to get up the hill on Darlington Street.
Even emergency service vehicles struggled to cope with the hazardous driving conditions.
One member of staff at Wigan Infirmary, who asked not to be named, said: “There was just no evidence of gritters that snowploughs or gritters had been out at all while I was in work.
“I drove home at around 9pm and cars were sliding all over the place on the main roads, it was pretty treacherous driving. I even saw taxis and ambulances having to crawl along at about 3mph, they were really struggling.
“Everything just came to a halt.”
Ross Beresford was among those who got stuck on the M6, having a nightmare eight-hour journey in the traffic.
He said: “It was absolutely horrendous. We set out to go from Leyland to Billinge at 7.30pm but turned back at junction 25 at about 9.25 and got home at 4am.
“There were quite a few impressive snowmen built along the motorway which kept us entertained, and there was also a mouse running up and down the fast lane at about 3am staring up at the cars.”
Part of the East Lancashire Road was closed due to a crash near to the Greyhound roundabout at Leigh.
With a thaw now expected on Saturday concerns now turn to flooding.
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Weather for Wigan
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: North west